McKeesport bike shop owner encourages helmets, 'pre-check'
Helmets, gloves, handlebar mirrors and reflective clothing are just a few items used by cyclists along the Great Allegheny Passage and other bike trails to help make their trip a safe one.
“I think there's a pre-check before you go out and ride,” said Mike Kostyzak, owner of Zak's Bike Shop in McKeesport.
“First thing you want to do is check your tires, obviously. You don't want to be limping around on a low or flat tire.”
Helmets are required for riders age 12 and younger, but not a requirement for adults.
“I think any time that you get on a bike is the right time to get a helmet on your head,” Kostyzak said.
“Anything can happen. You don't have to be going fast. All it takes is the wrong fall and you can be in a lot of trouble. For kids just starting you might even want to invest in knee pads, elbow pads, stuff like that.”
Kostyzak said experienced riders older than 10 may not need extra pads.
“If they're an inexperienced rider, by all means protect them as much as you can in the event that they do crash,” he said.
Choosing the type of bike to ride also has a great impact on the trip.
“Bikes are purpose-built,” said Kostyzak.
“Mountain bikes are for up in the woods, jumping over tree stumps and whatnot. Road bikes are exclusive to the road and pavement. That's all you're going to do on this bike.”
Kostyzak recommends cruiser bikes for bike trail trips shorter than 12 miles, and hybrid bikes for longer commutes.
Cruiser bikes are designed mainly for comfort, have an upright riding position, plush suspension, and roughly a 26-inch tire size.
Hybrid bikes have a frame designed for comfort and efficient pedaling, adjustable components for upright comfort or a more speed-oriented position, lighter components than cruiser bikes, and lighter tires to roll more easily on pavement for easier acceleration and climbing.
Most hybrid bike frames are made of lightweight aluminum or steel. Cruisers are generally heavier than hybrids.
Jerry Goldman of Elgin, Ill. and Gary Rose of Columbia, Ky. each wore helmets, sunglasses and bright colored shirts when they traveled along the trail in McKeesport.
They said paying attention to your surroundings and alerting other bikers of your presence helps with the safety aspect of riding.
“Follow the rules of the road,” said Goldman.
“You've got to keep your distance from the bike in front of you,” said Rose.
Long trips also provide maintenance and nutritional challenges for cyclists. Many bikers have tools, water bottles and food tucked into holders.
“You're going to want a means of carrying some things,” Kostyzak said.
“You're going to need at bare minimum a rear rack, a bike truck, pannier bags, a couple of spare tubes if you've got any sense about you. A repair kit, possibly some tire boots, a multi-tool.”
Other recommended items are tire levers, a spoke wrench, spare spokes, a horn or some means to signal other riders, tire pump, spare brake cables and master link for chains, and fenders for tires.
“If you get caught in a good rain storm and don't have any fenders, you'll wish you weren't there at all,” said Kostyzak.
Travelers also should plan ahead for long trips and figure out where to access water and other supplies along the way.
Transporting a bike to and from a trail also is important. People can use mounted racks, hitch-style racks or put it in the back seat of a car or bed of a truck.
Kostyzak recommended using a hitch-style rack for more than two bikes.
“It's really hard to get a four-bike rack that's strapped to the car,” he said.
“The further out that those bikes hang the more leverage you lose on a strap style. If it's a group more than three, I'd opt for a hitch-style rack and a couple of bungee cords to make sure they're not swinging and bobbing. You want to protect your investment.”
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.